The Englishman went on to say that Komat Thatal is not yet ready to play for the national side.
This is the first time India play Jordan in an international friendly, in what could be a very important test for Stephen Constantine and his men ahead of the much-awaited AFC AsiaN Cup. When asked about his team’s preparations, the gaffer said, “Well, it’s going good. We are doing good. We are also having to be careful due to the pollution levels in Delhi. Till now, it’s going fine. We are doing okay.”
Sunil Chhetri has been the national team’s main man for a very long time. The Bengaluru forward has at times, won games single-handedly. His absence due to injury could be costly for India. Although, youngster Komal Thatal has been called up as his replacement for the national camp. Regarding the situation Constantine stated, “Sunil is a very important player for me. We will obviously miss him, but at the same time, we also need to find someone like him. Someone who can fill in his role. He is not a spring chicken now and he is 36-years-old. At some point, he going to stop.”
He further quipped, “That’s why we have been looking at other strikers, especially the younger players. I need to involve them. There is a shortage of strikers due to the I-League and Indian Super League. The clubs get foreigners which hinders the Indian players, who turn towards other positions. Someone needs to be there, someone of his calibre. It is worth noting that Sunil has scored his most international goals during my tenure. He is irreplaceable, that is why we need to find someone. If I would get a chance, I would not allow any foreign players.”
Chennaiyin forward Jeje Lalpekhlua has also been called-up for the camp and will probably start against Jordan too. Although, he has been in poor form in the domestic circuit. Last season, the Mizo Sniper was amazing in the ISL, but this season, he doesn’t look himself. Even against China, he looked to be out of his depth. Regarding him Constantine quipped, “Yes, obviously its a problem. Its a problem whenever the Indian players are not playing for their clubs, or are playing in other positions. I can’t do anything about it, it is what the clubs do. Its their call.”
It is also worth noting that amongst the selected strikers, only Balwant Singh has had an impact for his side (ATK) in the ISL this season. Manvir Singh has also been benched. Farukh Chaudhary’s selection has been infrequent. Sumeet Passi has also had a meagre impact. The Blue Tigers drew against China in their previous international friendly.
Constantine went on to talk about the development of the game in India. He stated that the league structure is still in its infancy, which reflects on the national team. He also went on to say that his aim is to not play in the FIFA World Cup pre-qualifiers, but to do better than that. “We need to be more consistent. As we have qualified for this Asian Cup, we should qualify for the next one too. Yes, we are in a good position right now.”
Regarding injuries, the head coach stated that he will be taking 28 players to Abu Dhabi, and will be dropping five players on 2nd January 2018, which will be helpful in case of any unforseen event. When asked if India had a permanent skipper Constantine stated, “I always prefer shuffling the armband between 4-5 players, so that there is not just one voice in the dressing room. But, I have already decided which players will be leading in the upcoming friendlies.”